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Ari Richardson’s late 3-pointer sends Columbia River boys to a wild 55-52 win over White River

Rapids advance to play Anacortes in the 2A state round-of-12 at the Yakima SunDome

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: February 24, 2024, 9:40pm
7 Photos
Columbia River’s Ari Richardson (3) scores an uncontested layup as the White River bench looks on during a Class 2A State Opening Round boys basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at Battle Ground High School.
Columbia River’s Ari Richardson (3) scores an uncontested layup as the White River bench looks on during a Class 2A State Opening Round boys basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at Battle Ground High School. (Will Denner/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

BATTLE GROUND —It wasn’t the played he called, but Columbia River coach Mark Ganter said the ball found its way into the right hands.

Ari Richardson hit a game-winning 3-pointer with two seconds to play, lifting the Columbia River boys basketball team to a wild 55-52 win over White River of Buckley in a Class 2A state opening round playoff game Saturday night at Battle Ground High School.

“Nothing like that,” the junior guard. “I’ve played AAU, had some big shots. But that shot was easily the best shot I’ve had in my career.”

The win sends 12th-seeded River into the state round-of-12 game Wednesday against No. 5 Anacortes at the Yakima SunDome.

Richardson’s shot capped a wild game that featured a pair of scary injuries.

Near the end of the third quarter, Columbia River’s Miles Fitzwilson jumped out to contest a 3-point shot when he landed awkwardly and collapsed to the floor with a knee injury that caused players on the White River bench to wince and turn away.

But after receiving treatment from the training staff for several minutes, Fitzwilson was able to get up and hop over to the Rapids’ bench.

The two teams played a tight fourth quarter with Columbia River taking a 52-51 lead on Aaron Hoey’s jumper with 1:17 left.

White River tied the game on a free throw by Colin Schmidtke with 1:07 to play. But Schmidtke’s second free throw missed, and the ball bounced toward the White River bench.

Schmidtke and the Rapids’ Carter Sheron chased after the ball. When Sheron reached out for the ball, Schmidtke ran into Sheron’s elbow, cutting open a gash on Schmidtke’s forehead.

The game was stopped for 15 minutes while Schmidtke received treatment and the Battle Ground staff attended to the large amount of blood that was on the floor in front of the White River bench.

When play resumed, the Hornets had possession of the ball.

“We were just saying we needed one stop and a rebound,” Richardson said. “That’s all we had to do. We were focused on the defensive side to get one stop, and we came up big with a stop.”

The Rapids didn’t need a rebound as Nico Valdez was able to poke the ball away Blake Caldwell to create a turnover with 44 seconds left.

The Rapids worked some time off the clock before Richardson got an open look at a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left. The shot missed, but Sheron was there to chase down the rebound.

“Carter has been doing that all year,” Ganter said. “He hustles. He plays defense. He’s got those long arms.”

The Rapids called a timeout with 13 seconds left to work for the last shot.

Ganter said the play he called in the timeout was supposed to go to Hoey off a screen. And if that wasn’t open, Valdez was supposed to be the second option.

“They played excellent defense on (Hoey), so I just decided to do my own thing,” Richardson said. “I looked up at the clock and saw the time going down, so I tried to get open and get a shot.”

Richardson drove to the right, then popped back and buried the 3-pointer.

“It ended up that the right person had the ball in the end,” Ganter said.

After his shot, Richardson ran down to the other end of the court where he was swallowed up by first his teammates then by a throng of Columbia River students.

“It just shows our school has got spirit,” Richardson said. “It felt amazing to be around with all those guys. It felt incredible. It was the best moment of my life.”

COLUMBIA RIVER 55, WHITE RIVER 52

WHITE RIVER — Tyce Donovan 6, Blake Caldwell 2, Greg Schmitz 8, Colin Schmidtke 20, Sawyer Bloom 3, Logan Senon 7, Aaden Rathbun 6, Jace Marecle 0. Totals 20 (1) 11-18 52.

COLUMBIA RIVER — Ari Richardson 18, Adam Reeder 4, John Reeder 9, Miles Fitzwilson 4, Carter Sheron 6, Aaron Hoey 8, Nico Valdez 6. Totals 21 (6) 7-8 55.

White River 18 12 12 10—52

Col. River 17 11 13 14—55

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